Daman Smoot kept the secret of his roommate’s murder for nearly 16 years. Now, the Bucks County native has been sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison after confessing to the crime he long denied.
Smoot, 37, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder Monday in a deal negotiated with the District Attorney’s Office in January, when charges were filed in the 2004 death of Adam Brundage. The sentence will run consecutively with a five-to-10-year sentence Smoot is serving for a 2011 domestic assault in Montgomery County.
Part of Smoot’s agreement with Bucks County prosecutors included helping them recover Brundage’s remains, which Smoot had buried inside a sand berm at the Haines & Kibblehouse quarry in Hilltown Township.
The men had driven to the quarry, where Smoot worked, to get sand for a home-improvement project. There, they got into an argument, and Smoot struck Brundage in the back of the head with a baseball bat, caving in his skull, according to prosecutors. He then held his hand over Brundage’s mouth and nose until he stopped breathing.
Bucks County Judge Brian T. McGuffin said Monday that Smoot’s actions represented “a clear description of first-degree murder.” But he agreed to the negotiated plea, noting that it would have been difficult for prosecutors to prove the more serious charge at trial if they did not have Smoot’s cooperation or a body.
Still, McGuffin condemned Smoot’s actions, and the violent temper that led him to kill a father of two and leave a family dangling in uncertainty.
“Given the circumstances,” McGuffin said, “this is the closest to justice that we can get.”
In a short statement to Brundage’s family, who had traveled to Bucks County from Tennessee, Illinois, and Texas, Smoot offered a tearful apology.
“Not a day went by that this didn’t bother me, and I took it out on the people around me,” he said. “Nobody ever deserves to be treated like this.”
Smoot and Brundage had been living together for a few months in 2004, prosecutors said, sharing a home in Quakertown that Brundage had purchased with money he inherited after his father died of cancer.
When Brundage went missing, his family confronted Smoot, who gave them varying stories about his whereabouts. None seemed credible, prosecutors said, and the family continued to search.
Detectives in Quakertown continued their investigation for years.
In 2006, Smoot was convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl and sent to state prison. Two years later, during a jailhouse interview, a fellow inmate told the detectives Smoot had made passing references to Brundage’s death, saying, “It wasn’t supposed to happen. I just snapped,” prosecutors said in court Monday.
Late last year, those same detectives contacted Smoot’s former girlfriend, who told them he had made cryptic references to a murder he committed in the past, and asked them if he had finally confessed.
Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Schorn said prosecutors convened aninvestigative grand jury last year and Smoot was subpoenaed. After a nine-hour meeting with his attorney, Smoot confessed to killing Brundage and the two later worked out a deal with prosecutors.
“It’s impossible for any of us to comprehend the loss this family endured,” Schorn said. “Daman Smoot inflicted endless suffering upon them.”
That became clear in the courtroom, when Brundage’s mother, aunts, and sister took turns describing how so many years without answers had affected them.
“Adam and his entire family were robbed of his life, and for what? Greed? An argument?" asked Brundage’s mother, Julie Coyle. “He was not some piece of garbage to be thrown away.”